Key Points about Tachycardia Arrhythmia

Tachycardia, or fast heartbeat, is when there are rapid electrical signals to the heart, causing faster than normal contractions and goes above 100 beats per minute.

There are many types of tachycardia. Common types are:

  • Atrial fibrillation (A Fib): A Fib is the most common type of tachycardia associated with heart disease, high blood pressure, heart valve disorder, hyperthyroidism, or heavy alcohol use.
  • Atrial flutter: Atrial flutter occurs when the heart’s atria are beating fast but at a regular rate resulting in the contractions in the atria being weak. Typically, those who have experienced atrial fibrillation can experience atrial flutter as well.
  • Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT): Originating somewhere above the ventricles, SVT is an abnormally fast heartbeat that is usually present at birth.
  • Ventricular tachycardia: A ventricular tachycardia originates from rapid electrical signals in the lower chambers (ventricles). Due to the rapid heart rate, the ventricles can’t efficiently pump enough blood to the body.
  • Ventricular fibrillation: Ventricular fibrillation occurs when rapid and chaotic electrical impulses to the ventricles cause the ventricles to quiver and become ineffective in pumping blood to the body. Typically, those with underlying heart disease or have experienced serious trauma can experience ventricular fibrillation.
Common related conditions
Arrhythmias Heart Failure Heart Attack

Overview

Tachycardia is a condition where your resting heart rate reaches higher than 100 beats per minute. While it is normal for your heart rate to rise as a response to stress, trauma, or illness, tachycardia occurs when the heart is beating faster than while you are at rest.

You may not experience any symptoms or signs that indicate you are having a tachycardia arrhythmia. However, if left untreated, tachycardia can cause disruptions and lead to severe complications such as heart failure, stroke, sudden cardiac arrest, or death.

Tachycardia arrhythmia causes

Tachycardia arrhythmias are generally caused by abnormal electrical impulses to the heart, disrupting normal pumping of blood to the body.

Possible causes of tachycardia arrhythmia include:

  • Reacting to a certain medication
  • Congenital abnormalities
  • Alcohol and drug abuse
  • Electrolyte imbalances
  • Heart disease
  • Hypertension
  • An overactive thyroid gland
  • Smoking
  • Certain lung diseases

Tachycardia arrhythmia risk factors

Someone may be more at risk of developing tachycardia if they experience conditions that strain the heart or damaged heart tissue. Changes to lifestyle or medical treatment may help decrease risk factors associated with tachycardia. These risk factors include:

  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Sleep apnea
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Excessive caffeine intake
  • Use of illicit drugs
  • Psychological stress or anxiety
  • Anemia
  • Overactive or underactive thyroid

Someone is more likely to develop tachycardia as they age or if there is a family history of tachycardia.

Tachycardia arrhythmia symptoms

Common symptoms of a tachycardia arrhythmia include:

  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Heart palpitations
  • In extreme cases: unconscious, cardiac arrest

Tachycardia arrhythmia diagnosis

The most common tool to diagnose a tachycardia arrhythmia is an electrocardiogram, also called an ECG or EKG. It’s a painless test that uses small sensors hooked to your chest and arms and measures the heart's electrical activity.

Tachycardia arrhythmia treatment

To treat a tachycardia arrhythmia, doctors will typically prescribe medication, perform a procedure, or implant a device such as:

  • Implant a cardiac pacemaker
  • Implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD)
  • Electrical cardioversion
  • Surgical ablation

In rare cases, you may need surgical intervention to treat your tachycardia arrhythmia. Surgical treatments may include:

  • Maze procedure
  • Coronary artery bypass surgery

In some cases, tachycardia arrhythmias are preventable. To prevent a tachycardia from occurring you can:

  • Exercise and eat a healthy diet
  • Maintain a healthy body weight
  • Keep an eye on your blood pressure and cholesterol levels
  • Stop smoking
  • Drinking alcohol in moderation
  • Stopping the use of recreational drugs
  • Using over-the-counter medications with caution
  • Limit caffeine
  • Control stress
  • Go to scheduled checkups

When should I seek care?

Call 911 right away if you:

  • Feel faint
  • Have trouble breathing
  • Have chest pain that lasts longer than a few minutes

If you are having less severe tachycardia arrhythmia symptoms, call your doctor as soon as possible.

Next Steps

Your doctor will recommend the best treatment for your case. Changes to your lifestyle and medications may be recommended to help prevent some of the risk factors associated with tachycardia. Be sure to understand the treatment plan your doctor prescribes and report immediately if symptoms change or worsen.